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the way love goes

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“Alexis!” David calls, before promptly barging into the room. He waves his hands at her. “What the fuck is taking so long?”

“Ugh, David!” she cries, chucking the shirt she just pulled off at him. He watches it hit his chest and then fall to the floor, an offended expression on his face. “I could’ve been naked!”

“Well, that would be very inconvenient of you, Alexis, because you were supposed to be dressed and ready to leave thirty minutes ago.” He steps over her discarded shirt, hands gesturing to her once again, even more expansively. “What is happening here?”

Alexis looks down at herself miserably. She’s currently wearing a bra with a rainbow-stripe pattern, over which she just tried knotting a cropped, low-cut pink blouse (a choice she hated upon looking in the mirror), and a faux-leather miniskirt she thought would make her feel sexy but is actually just making her feel sweaty. “I… don’t know,” she tells her brother, quietly.

He makes a frustrated noise in his throat. “Your girlfriend is making my husband a second cup of tea. There was talk of ‘throwing some muffins in the oven.’ We’re not even supposed to be here anymore!”

Alexis tilts her head. “What kind of muffins?”

David blinks at her. “Poppyseed,” he says, then, “I’m going to murder you.”

“*David*,” she whines. “I just - ” She gestures in what she hopes is a sympathy-inspiring way to herself and her incomplete outfit.

“What?” he demands. “What?” Pacing toward her closet, he adds, “You have that white tank with the straps - ” He makes a couple gestures near his neck that Alexis totally understands, “ - that’s basically translucent; let’s get that on you and go.”

“No,” she says, forcefully enough that it surprises them both. “No, I - that won’t work.”

David turns to face her. He draws in his breath, clearly gathering his patience, and asks, “What is happening here, Alexis?”

She gnaws on the inside of her bottom lip. “I don’t know what to wear. Nothing feels right.”

His mouth tightens. “Do you need reminding that you’re already in a relationship? Or that you were blessed with some genetic material that very rudely skipped over me? You look great, you always look great, let’s go.

“It’s just…” Alexis edges toward the bed and picks up a t-shirt. “Twy got me this,” she says. There’s a panda screenprinted on the tee, accompanied by the words pan, duh. “Which was, like, the sweetest thing? But it’s kind of more, um… her style? Than it is mine. And I…” She trails off, her gaze roaming over all the clothes she tried on before ripping them off again. “I’ve never done this before, David.”

He frowns, his eyebrows doing a little dance as he tries to figure out what she means. “What’re you talking about? You’ve been to Pride with me a hundred times.”

She nods, wringing her hands, tugging on her fingers nervously. “But not like… this? Not, like… ” She gives her shoulders a wiggle. “Super out? And like, um, super pan? And super into Twy.”

David’s face softens, the exact same way it used to in the middle of the night when she’d wake him with a rushed description of a nightmare. “Okay,” he says, just like he used to say when they were kids. He turns to her closet, his back to her, his hands on his hips. “Ditch the skirt.”

Alexis does, undoing the zipper and wiggling out. By the time she’s kicked it aside, David’s tossed her one of her favourite pairs of distressed denim shorts. Once she has them on, he leaves her closet and dives into her dresser.

Two minutes later, he’s ordered her into a bright yellow bralette with a floral pattern in its lace, over which he’s had her tie her previously-rejected cropped pink blouse, along with her blue shorts. He throws her a scrunchie for a top-knot, and finds gloss for her lips while she puts her hair up.

Hands on her shoulders, he steers her in front of the full-length mirror. Alexis does her typical mirror routine, removing a smudge of lip gloss from the corner of her mouth, checking herself out from all angles, tucking away stray hairs. Then she meets her brother’s eyes in the mirror and smiles - a small, soft thing, a smile that says thank you.

He smiles back and says, with grumpiness that’s obviously put-on, “Can we leave now?”

“Yeah,” she says, giving her reflection one last glance. “I’m ready.”

David pulls her out of the room by the hand, and then hooks her hand into the crook of his elbow as they head for the kitchen, where Patrick and Twyla are waiting. Alexis presses an impulsive, gloss-sticky kiss to his cheek, and laughs when he huffs, “Ugh - swallow an insect, Alexis, my face - ”